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Christian Church, History of the.

Jesus Christ is the cen. figure in all hist. The time before His birth was one of preparation for His coming; the time after it is one planting and growth in His Kingdom of Grace. Ch. hist. is the record of this planting and growth. NT ch. hist. may be divided into 3 periods: ancient (1–590), medieval (590–1517), and modern (1517– ).

I. Ancient.

1. Apostolic Era (1–ca. 100). The disciples of Jesus, Founder and Head of the ch. were to be witnesses to Him in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). During the 1st c. there were 3 great centers in Asia: Jerusalem (30–44), Antioch in Syria (44–68), Ephesus (68–100). The mother ch. at Jerusalem was dispersed, Acts 8:1–4. Antioch became the center of Gentile Christianity (disciples first called Christians there, Acts 11:26) and the home base for missions, Acts 13:1–3. The ch. at Ephesus, founded by Paul, continued to flourish under John, who is said to have gone there from Jerusalem during the Jewish War of 66–70. Before the siege of Jerusalem in 70, mems. of the ch. there fled to Pella in Decapolis (Eusebius, HE III, v., 3). Before the end of the Apostolic Era the ch. was firmly planted in the W, e.g. in Rome, where Peter is said to have been crucified in 64 and Paul beheaded in 66.

2. Post-Apostolic Era (ca. 100–ca. 170). In this period were produced the writings of the Apostolic* Fathers. The anonymous Epistle to Diognetus* may have been written in this period. To this period belong also the apologists* Quadratus,* Aristides,* Melito,* Claudius Apollinaris,* Miltiades,* Athenagoras,* Theophilus* of Antioch, Tatian,* Aristo* of Pella, and Justin* Martyr; they defended the Christian faith against assaults of paganism and Judaism from without and against those of Gnosticism from within.

Perverters of Christianity: Ebionites,* Elkesaites,* leaders of Gnosticism* and Docetism.* These were opposed by Irenaeus,* Tertullian,* and Hippolytus* (anti-Gnostic Fathers). Marcion* charged conflict bet. OT and NT Montanism* opposed by Alogi (see Monarchianism, A 1). Against the Montanists the ch. declared revelation closed.

3. Ante-Nicene Era (ca. 170–325). Uninterrupted succession of bps. emphasized to secure valid transmission of apostolic tradition and unity of episcopacy and of the ch. The ch. recognized a canon (see Canon, Bible) of the OT and of the NT and a rule of faith (see Ecumenical Creeds, A 3, 4). A beginning of scientific theol, was made in the Alexandrian catechetical school (Pantaenus,* Clement* of Alexandria, and Origen.* See also Exegesis, 3; Schools, Early Christian, 1). Great leaders in the W were Tertullian,* Cyprian,* Irenaeus,* and Hippolytus.* To this period belongs also the apologist Marcus Minucius* Felix.

Heresies threatened the ch.: Monarchianism* (opposed by Tertullian) and Arianism* (opposed by Alexander* [d. 328] and Macarius* of Jerusalem and condemned by the 325 Council of Nicaea.*).

4. Post-Nicene Era (325–590). This era marks new conquests for Christianity and additional formation of doctrine. In 391 Theodosius* I forbade all heathen sacrifices; in 529 Justinian* I closed the school of philos. in Athens. A number of barbaric kingdoms, planted on the soil of the decrepit Roman Empire, turned to Christianity. Heresies were combated. Arianism continued to trouble the ch. (see Athanasius; Cappadocian Theologians; Diodorus of Tarsus; Eusebius of Samosata; Eusebius of Vercel li; Goths; Gregory of Elvira; Hilary of Poitiers; Jerusalem, Synods of; Serapion; Theodosius I; Ulfilas) though condemned by the 381 Council of Constantinople (see also Filioque Controversy; Flavian, 1; Fulgentius, Claudius Gordianus; Presbyterian Churches, 3). This council also condemned the Macedonians, or Pneumatomachians,* who denied that the Holy Spirit was of an essence equal to that of the Father and of the Son, and Apollinarianism (Apollinaris* of Laodicea). Nestorianism,* converting the 2 natures of Christ into 2 persons, was condemned 431 at Ephesus (see Ephesus, Third Ecumenical Council of). Monophysitism* was condemned at Chalcedon 451 and Constantinople 553 (see Chalcedon, Council of; Constantinople, Councils of, 2; Monophysite Controversy). Monothelitism* was condemned 680 at Constantinople (see Constantinople, Councils of, 3). Donatism (see Donatist Schism) was opposed by Augustine* of Hippo. Pelagianism was opposed by Augustine of Hippo and condemned 431 at Ephesus (see Pelagian Controversy).

5. Eminent in this period: Ambrose,* Chrysostom,* Augustine* of Hippo, and Jerome.* Near the end of this era there was a great change in ch. organization. The clergy became a special order, economically indep. and exempt from the jurisdiction of secular courts. Canon laws and traditions began to be codified. The power and prestige of the bp. of Rome grew. Monasticism* continued to develop (Anthony,* Simeon* Stylites, Benedict* of Nursia). But spiritual life deteriorated.

II. Medieval (590–1517).

This period may be divided according to the fortunes of the papacy*: its rise (Gregory I–VII), its supreme power (Gregory VII-Boniface VIII), and its decline (Boniface VIII to Leo X). See also Popes, 4–20. The first division of the Medieval Period may also be dated as ending ca. 1050, in view of the 1054 schism bet. E and W

1. 59–0ca. 1050. The ch. suffered tremendous losses. Islam overran Asia, N Afr. and Sp. but was turned back 732 at Tours by Charles Martel. But for the W it was a time of great miss. expansion. Patrick,* Columba,* Columban,* Augustine* of Canterbury, Willibrord,* Boniface,* and Ansgar* were miss. to the Brit. Isles and the Continent. Cyril* and Methodius went to the Slavs in Moravia. Vladimir* I Christianized Russia. The iconoclastic* controversy created much disturbance in the E and was a contributory factor leading to the schism* bet. E and W 1054. The spurious Donation* of Constantine pretended to justify the pope's temporal power, first est. 756 by Pepin III (the Short). The Pseudo-Isidorian* Decretals further strengthened papal power.

The second Council of Nicaea* (787), defining the doctrine of the veneration of images, terminated a period of doctrinal development in the E Orthodox Ch. In the W, filioque (“and the Son”) appeared in the Nicene Creed at the Council of Toledo* 589. Gregory I developed the doctrine of purgatory and applied to it the idea of the sacrifice of the mass, taught invocation and intercession of saints and angels, and fostered veneration of relics and images. (See also Popes, 4). Doctrinal controversies concerned adoptionism,* Gottschalk's doctrine of predestination (see Predestinarian Controversy), and Bérenger's* opposition to the doctrine of transubstantiation. Odo* of Cluny gave new impetus to monasticism and reform. Lat. hymnists of this period: Gregory I, V. Fortunatus,* Bede,* Notker* Balbulus, and P. Damiani.*

2. Ca. 1050–1294. This age includes the investiture* controversy; the crusades* (1096–1270); rise of the military* religious orders; founding of the mendicant* orders; Scholasticism*; rise of the universities (see Higher Education, 4).

3. 1294–1517. Boniface VIII (1294–1303) in the bull *Unam Sanctam reached the peak of papal claim to world supremacy and failed. Clement V (1304–14), creature of Philip IV (the Fair), transferred the curia to Avignon,* beginning the Babylonian Captivity (1309–77; see also Babylonian Captivity, 2), which resulted in the papal schism 1378–1417 (see Schism, 8), ended by the Council of Constance* (1414 to 1418). Conciliarism (Reform Councils: Pisa* 1409, Constance 1414–18, Basel* 1431–49) failed to est. reforms. Reformers appeared: Marsilius* of Padua; William of Ockham*; J. de Gerson*; Nicholas* of Cusa; mystics J. Eckhart* and J. Tauler.* Greater than these were J. Wycliffe,* J. Hus,* and G. Savonarola.* See also Popes, 12–20; Councils and Synods, 7.

III. Modern (1517– ).

1. The Luth. Reformation.* Leo X (see Popes, 20) appointed Albert* of Brandenburg chief manager in one district of Ger. for the sale of indulgences.* Albert appointed J. Tetzel* indulgence seller. October 31, 1517, Luther* nailed 95 Theses* to a door of the Castle Ch. Wittenberg. Luther was called to account before cardinal Cajetan at the 1518 Diet of Augsburg. The Leipzig* Debate, 1519. Bull Exsurge, Domine burned 1520. Bull of excommunication, Decet, issued 1521. Luther at the Diet of Worms,* 1521. NT tr. into Ger. 1522. Peasants'* War, 1525. Diets of Speyer,* 1526 and 1529. Marburg Colloquy, 1529. Catechisms, 1529. Diet of Augsburg and AC 1530. Complete Bible tr. into Ger. 1534. Controversies in Ger. Luth. chs. 1548–77. Book* of Concord pub. 1580. See also Catechetics, 7; Catechisms, Luther's; Luther, Martin, 6–20; Lutheran Confessions.

2. H. Zwingli* protested against Bernhardin Samson's promotion of the sale of indulgences* 1519; broke with Rome 1522; abolished mass 1525; died in battle of Kappel 1531. Zwinglianism absorbed by Calvinism.*

3. J. Calvin's* 1st stay at Geneva 1536–38; Institutes of the Christian Religion 1536; 2d stay at Geneva 1541–64. Cardinal principles of his Reformation: sovereignty of God, absolute supremacy of the Bible as norm for life and doctrine; justification by faith in Jesus Christ; universal priesthood of all believers.

4. The Luth. Reformation outside Germany. Frederick I, king of Den. 1523–33, favored Lutheranism. H. Tausen,* the “Danish Luther.” Diet of Odense, 1527. The “forty-three articles of Copenhagen,” 1530. Christian III made Lutheranism the religion of Den. and Norway. Diet of Copenhagen legalized the Reformation 1536. (See also Denmark, Lutheranism in, 1–4). The Reformation was introduced in Iceland by G. Einarsson* 1540. Lutheranism was planted in Swed. by O. Petri* and L. Petri.* Gustavus* I, elected king of Swed. 1523, favored the Reformation; the 1529 council at Örebro marked its legal introduction. The Reformation was introduced in Fin. by Mikael Agricola.*

5. The Reformation spread rapidly in Poland but was curtailed by Sigismund III. In Bohemia and Moravia the Reformation was checked by the Jesuits.* The Counter* Reformation curbed the spread of the Reformation in Croatia, Slavonia, and It. See also Bohemian Brethren; Czechoslovakia; Yugoslavia; Moravian Church.

6. The Swiss Reformation spread to nearly all countries of Eur. The first Ref. syn. was held in Paris 1559 (Confessio Gallicana). Prots. in Fr. were called Huguenots.* Calvinism became dominant also in the Netherlands. Scotland turned to Calvinism largely under leadership of J. Knox.* The Scot. parliament officially proclaimed the Ref. faith the religion of Scot. 1560. See also Reformed Confessions, B.

7. W. Tyndale's* NT smuggled into Eng. 1526, prepared the way for Protestantism there. The marital troubles of Henry VIII (king 1509–47) caused the break with Rome; he issued the Ten Articles 1536. The Six Articles of 1539 constituted a reaction against Protestantism. During the reign of Edward VI (1547–53) Protestantism of the Ref. type was firmly planted and the Forty-two Articles adopted. The reaction under Mary (1553–58) was not able to uproot it. Under Elizabeth (1558–1603) the Thirtynine Articles were adopted; Puritans* and Independents* multiplied. See also Anglican Confessions; England, B 1–6.

8. Various radical groups sprang up in Eur. in the days of the Reformation (Anabaptists; Unitarians*). See also Baptist Churches, 2; Mennonite Churches.

9. The Counter* Reformation. Organizations opposing the Reformation: Theatines,* Jesuits.* The Inquisition* was continued. The Council of Trent* formulated RC dogma and anathematized Prot. doctrine. Religious wars worked hardships on RCs but esp. on Prots. Wars in Fr. 1562–98, Neth. 1572 to 1609, Ger. 1546–55 and 1618–48. Prot. disunity often aided the Counter Reformation, as in Poland, Hungary, and, to some extent, the Netherlands. Arminianism* opposed strict Calvinism* and was condemned at the Syn. of Dordrecht* 1619.

10. Prot. doctrines were formulated in a more systematic way in the 17th c. (J. Gerhard,* Luth.; G. Voet,* Ref.). Latitudinarians* and advocates of syncretism* reacted against orthodoxy (W. Chillingworth*; G. Calixtus*). The same c. produced such groups as the Quakers* and theosophists (see Theosophy, 1).

11. The age of orthodoxy was followed by Pietism* (P. J. Spener*; A. H. Francke*; H. A. Brorson*; E. Pontoppidan*). Swed. curtailed Pietism by royal decree 1726. N. L. von Zinzendorf* made Herrnhut the center of the Moravian* Ch. In Eng. J. and C. Wesley* and G. Whitefield* founded Methodism (see Methodist Churches).

12. Pietism's indifference to doctrine merged into the age of rationalism.* The 18th c. made reason the test of all things; Eng. Deism* regarded it as the chief source of knowledge. Unitarianism* spread. Jansenism* and Quietism,* 17th and 18th c. movements in the RC Ch. were opposed by Jesuits.* In the 2d half of the 18th c. the Jesuits were suppressed in RC countries, only to come back strong in the 19th c. and to add greatly to the victory of Ultramontanism.*

13. E Orthodox chs. were largely left untouched by the stirring events of the W. Thoroughly conservative in doctrine and cultus, they were influenced chiefly by political events (rise of the Balkan States; changes in Russia).

14. The 19th and 20th cents. saw several religious streams flowing side by side or merging. Romanticism* was a reaction against rationalism.* F. D. E. Schleiermacher* became the father of Protestant Modernism.* Luth. confessionalism, led by C. Harms,* opposed the Prussian* Union.

15. The Ch. of Eng. produced the Oxford* movement. The 19th c. was marked by social reforms. World missions, begun in the 18th c. were expanded in the 19th c.; many miss. societies were organized. R. Raikes* promoted and popularized the Sunday school.

16. Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception 1854. Vatican Council I defined the dogma of papal infallibility 1870. Plus XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of Mary 1950. John XXIII convoked Vatican Council II 1962.

17. WW I and II and global unrest dispelled the optimism of the early 20th c. Resurgence of paganism challenged the ch. in wide areas. But distress of the times encouraged Christians to collaborate for relief of the needy. Despite strong anti-Christian forces (communism, materialistic humanism, evolutionism) the ch. moved forward. See also Ecumenical Movement. LWS

See also Church and State; Sarapis; Theology.

G. P. Fisher, History of the Christian Church (New York, 1887); R. H. Nichols, The Growth of the Christian Church, rev. 1-vol. ed. (Phidadelphia, 1941); L. P. Qualben, A History of the Christian Church, rev. and enl. ed. (New York, 1958); W. Walker, A History of the Christian Church, rev. C. C. Richardson (New York, 1959). See also Tripartite History.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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